The Connected Generation Comes of Age

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The Connected Generation Comes of Age

Over the past century or so, technologies have been integrated into our lifestyles at an ever-accelerating rate.  These technologies have transformed the way we communicate and manipulate information both for work and for personal use.  Although we’ve embraced each of these technologies, starting with telephones, they’ve mostly served as an overlay on our already existing habits and lifestyles. 

But now, a new generation is emerging that has never experienced a world without the Internet, mobile devices, and social networking.  This has created a generation that is fundamentally different.  This difference goes to the very core of how they think and act.  They have been labeled “The Connected Generation” because they are continuously connecting, communicating, searching, computing, editing, and clicking.

Roman Friedrich, Michael Peterson, and Alex Koster of Booz & Company examined this phenomenon in the Spring 2011 edition of Strategy+Business.1  Looking primarily at the cohort born in the developed world after 1990, the authors described these young people as primarily realists and materialists who are seen as culturally liberal, but not necessarily politically progressive. 

The members of this generation all have cell phones and they use them more for texting than for voice conversations.  Increasingly, they connect with family members, friends, business contacts, and other people with common interests on the Internet, using channels such as instant messaging, Facebook, and YouTube. 

While the preceding generations also share these technologies with them, the Connected Generation has a common “connected mindset” that sets them apart in ways that will be unique in human history.

Already, we can see clear differences between the Connected Generation and prior generations.  Today, 65-year-olds spend an average of two to three hours online per week.  However, the people who will be 65 in 2020 are forecast to be online an average of eight hours per week.  In contrast, today’s 16- to 24-year-olds are already online an average of 13 hours per week, and 52 percent of young Europeans say they feel “disconnected” when their mobile phones aren’t with them.

This new connected way of thinking and acting will have a profound effect on how business is conducted, purchasing is influenced, and relationships are maintained.  Whether businesses target this generation as employees or as customers, they will need to adapt to its mindset. 

For example, in parts of Asia, voice has already dropped to 20 percent of the network traffic...

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